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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #201, November 21, 2008

Hicks with Sticks
San Francisco Bay
Area Twang
Calendar Highlights
Bands / Clubs

Dave Crimmen Band @ St. James Gate, 1410 Old County Rd., Belmont 930pm $5
Wayne "The Train" Hancock/The ShitKickers/Steve Soto @ Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose 10pm $12

Wayne "The Train" Hancock/Blag Dahlia (solo acoustic)/The B-Stars @ The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakland 10pm $12/$15

Opry West: Antsy McClain/Steve Seskin/Miko Marks/Emerge/The Privies/Eric Bolvin/Jenny Kerr/Gary Tackett & The Calbillys @ Bankhead Theatre, 2400 First St., Livermore 7pm $20

Kitchen Fire/The GoldDiggers @ Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berkeley 930pm $7

Yard Sale @ Café Royale, 800 Post St., SF 8pm
The Go-Getters/+ @ Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose 10pm $10

Full Calendar


Barack Obama
has already formed a transition team for the Federal Communications Commission, an agency which under GWB appointee, Chairman Kevin Martin, was more interested in consolidating ownership and reducing diversity than protecting the public's airwaves.

Several new priorities have already emerged.  One of the most important is the Internet where the transition team is concerned that the US is lagging in broadband adoption and Internet accessibility.  The push will be on to make the Internet more like a personal communications utility than the computer communications network that it is now.  The new broadband vision is one of a big pipe through which voice, video and data can pass and telephone and cable providers can be bypassed. 

The accessibility issue seeks to make the Internet available without computers, service providers or search engines.  The idea is to use the Internet as an open systems network not just for computers but for televisions, telephones or whatever i-appliances future product developers can dream up.

Diversity will be another priority for the FCC under Obama who voiced support for ownership by minorities and women while a Senator.  The domination of communications by corporate white guys is tied to the larger issue of media consolidation which Republican legislators had supported against the wishes of Republican voters who raised their voices in nonpartisan harmony when the FCC approved even greater media concentration in 2002.  The courts rolled back that decision in 2003 thanks to bipartisan public opinion.

Many other issues are back on the table including the Fairness Doctrine, increased competition between cable and telephone providers, consumer-friendly rate structures and public-oriented regulation.  It is particularly important for the public to grasp these points outside of the populist thrall of the deregulation craze.  The FCC's green light to media consolidation had been sold under the guise of "deregulation" since "corporate giveaway" just didn't exude a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling.  Fact is that during the last eight years, the FCC shuffled their priorities to suit the broadcasters at the expense of the cable companies, phone companies and the public, but it never really deregulated anything because, like it or not, the government is the only referee that can protect communications from chaos.


You might recall this toddler from a previous HWS News issue's story about copyright bullies like Universal Music, who served YouTube with a takedown order for a 30-second video of him bouncing to the rhythm of a barely audible Prince song.  Hicks with Sticks News spares no expense taking copyright thuggery to task while fully recognizing the value and importance of protecting the value of intellectual property rights, as in the case of Google.

In 2002, Google embarked on an ambitious plan to expand its search capabilities by copying the text of every book in the English language.  They claimed the right to do this under fair use, hitching their hopes to the shaky technically that their service was for searching, rather than reading, books.  The Google plan was to put the world on an honor system, something like "Search as ye may, but readeth not!"  Somehow the publishing industry and authors weren't buying it.

Now Google is paying $125 million to get the job done.  That price might suggest that Google lost, but it actually turns out to be fairly inexpensive for the right to create a library that will be the envy of the world.  Speaking about the settlement, Washington copyright lawyer Jonathan Band said. "[Publishers] need to get with the program and find a way to partner with the Internet companies as opposed to fighting them."

What this really signals is more shrinkage and consolidation of the hardcopy publishing industry, which closely follows the hardcopy audio (CDs) and video (DVDs) into the digital netherworld where intellectual property is more of a commodity like barley or beef than a unique product.  Mothers, tell your children to be President because becoming authors, video producers or, gulp, musicians in the 21st Century will not be a profitable career choice...  The L.A. Times has

Books differ from songs in many ways, one of the most important being that books have universal product codes (UPCs) that can tell publishers exactly how many units have been sold and hence the royalties due the authors.  Song plays can only be estimated and that process, which is run by the song publishers, is nothing but statistical voodoo.  The point being that downloading songs is more difficult to equate to stealing given the pittances paid to the vast majority of songwriters, the more informed of whom know, going back to the days before computers, that downloaders are not the ones who are stealing from them.


The Recording Industry Association of America regularly sends out thousands of greenmail compensation demands to the families of downloaders who are usually minors.  College students are favorite targets, but the RIAA never sets its lawyers upon Harvard students because it fears the heavy hitters in the university's law school.  (See story.)  Harvard professor Charlie Nesson grew tired of waiting to take a crack at them so he's taken the case of a non-Harvard student.
Charlie Nesson summarizes some of the excitement over Nesson's entry into the music downloading war: "'RIAA Litigation May Be Unconstitutional,' headlined Slashdot, a self-described 'news for nerds' website.  'Harvard's Charlie Nesson Raises Constitutional Questions in RIAA Litigation,' trumpeted ZDNet Government.  'Insane Harvard Law Professor Promises MP3 Justice,' proclaimed Gawker."

The case involves Joel Tenenbaum a Boston University grad student who the RIAA has accused of downloading seven MP3 files. The RIAA's basic shakedown is for $3000-$5000 and a promise to stop downloading.  Most families cave in since they can't afford to fight the RIAA over three to five grand, particularly since the digital copyright laws have been bought and paid for through the RIAA's grease monkeys in Congress.  A song on iTunes costs $.99; the minimum fine for downloading from a P2P is $750 per song.

Nesson plans to try the RIAA in the court of public opinion first and in a court of law second.  Nesson is attacking the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999 as overly punitive and unconstitutional because its cases can't really be tried in courts.  The way the law is written, cases can only be rubber stamped in favor of the RIAA. 
Techdirt has the full story and some hard-hitting quotes from Nesson's brief.


Axton Kincaid,
the Bay Area band with two of its five members now in Oregon, has released their second CD, Silver Dollars, which they recorded and mixed in Oakland adding fiddle support from the Burning Embers' Katy Rexford on three tracks.  Look for their return December 13-14 at Fourth Street Tavern and the Rite Spot...   The current recession is hurting everyone and the clubs are no exception.  Many are reporting drop-offs of 15-30% in business.  Within the last two weeks, McGrath's in Alameda and Bird & Beckett, a San Francisco bookstore with a commitment to in-store live music, have sent out distress signals.  There are at least a dozen more which, if not operating in the red, are bright pink.  At prices ranging from free to $10, live music remains the best entertainment value, even when you're broke, so support our live music venues and the bands they support in this time of need...  Ireland's 32 owner Peter Cooper has finalized the sale of the Dog's Bollix and is happy to now that he only has one club manage...  Daly City is in view from Pissed Off Pete's, a dive bar in the outer mission that stages the Country Casanovas every Wednesday.   Starting in December, the Country Casanovas will play last Saturdays at the equally divey 7-Mile House, just over the SF line in Brisbane.  The Casanovas have no qualms about playing requests for songs they don't know.  They have a rawhide angel who can impregnate them with the song's lyrics, arrangement and key when necessary....  Click the picture for an interesting short history of Civil War military bands and vintage Library of Congress band photos.  Factoids: by the end of 1861, the Union Army had 618 bands and more than 28,000 musicians.  Except for drum majors, a musician's pay ranged between $17 and $34 per month, which goes to show that earnings from making music really haven't kept pace with inflation...  The invasion of the surfabilly bands is underway.  The Twang Tens are a new surfabilly outfit that has emerged out of the late West Coast Rollers. Find them at Miss Fire and the Detonations are another new rockabilly/surf band.  They're at ... The last issue of HWS News had some fun with the surfabilly band, Los High Tops, kidding that their song "Lemon Drop" is, " ode to a cocktail so gay that even singing about it could get the band banned from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame."  High Top Tony Tissot emailed to say that they actually did get kicked off the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage at the annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly bash, but for playing too much surf rather than imbibing Lemon Drops.  You can take the band out of Santa Cruz, but you can't necessarily take Santa Cruz out of the band...  And speaking of that fine city by the sea, "tramp stamp" is a dismissive phrase often used to describe a tattoo on the small of a woman's back, but down at the Boardwalk this popular form of body art is more kindly and gently referred to as her "Santa Cruz license plate."

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